Separation Anxiety Disorder in Children

Separation anxiety disorder is a relatively common condition that can affect very young children. But it can also affect people in all age groups. It is a psychological condition where a patient suffers from excessive anxiety when it comes to being separated from home and other familiar surroundings or from people whom the patient has build strong emotional attachments with.

Causes of separation anxiety disorder

Separation anxiety disorder can usually develop early in life especially after a stressful or a traumatic event. Separation anxiety can develop in a child whose parents are overly protective. There are some cases that seem to suggest such disorders can be inherited. Some children with separation anxiety disorder usually also have relatives or other family members with anxiety or other mental disorders.

Symptoms of separation anxiety disorder

Separation anxiety disorder is characterized by having excessive anxiety when a person is being separated from a familiar environment or people. In children, one symptom or sign is having unrealistic or lasting worry about something bad happening to parents or guardians when separated from them. Another sign if separation anxiety is refusal to go to school and be separated from a guardian or a parent.

Another symptom of the disorder in children is not being able to sleep without a parent or a guardian close by. Some children with separation anxiety disorder will sometimes complain of feeling headaches or stomach pains mainly to remain at home than be at school. Other children may show repeated tantrums or pleading not to be separated from a parent or guardian.

How separation anxiety disorder is diagnosed?

Separation anxiety disorder is diagnosed based on the signs and the symptoms exhibited. There are no laboratory tests available that will help doctors determine if a person is suffering from separation anxiety.

If the symptoms shown suggest of such a disorder, doctors usually proceed to evaluate a patient further by checking a patient’s medical history and perform a physical examination. Tests may be given in order to rule out any other illness or possible diagnosis.

In the absence of any physical illness, patients with separation anxiety disorder are then referred to psychologists or psychiatrists who are trained to deal with treating mental illness or disorders. They usually interview and assess a patient further in addition to the symptoms displayed and the patient’s observed attitude and behavior.

How to prevent separation anxiety disorder?

There is no known means to prevent separation anxiety disorder from affecting a child or adult. But early recognition of the disorder can help minimize the problems and other effects associated with the anxiety disorder.

How to treat separation anxiety disorder?

Mild cases of separation anxiety disorder do not require any medical treatment. Only in the most severe cases will medication be given in order to reduce the anxiety experienced by the patient.

The most common treatment used for the disorder is psychotherapy to help patients handle instances where they need to separate themselves from a familiar environment or from people they have built a strong emotional attachment to.

Sometimes the therapy may need the involvement of family members to provide support by helping them understand the disorder and help the patients during periods of anxiety.